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Daily Record: Comptroller, UB collaborate on Maryland tax course

Daily Record

Comptroller, UB collaborate on Maryland tax course

By: Tim Curtis Daily Record Business Writer

July 26, 2019

Maryland’s comptroller and the University of Baltimore are teaming up to offer a course on Maryland tax issues, an effort aimed at improving knowledge of state tax law and bolstering recruitment efforts in the comptroller’s office.

As issues with e-commerce and changes in federal tax law develop, they create a need for more knowledge of how tax law works in Maryland, said Sharonne Bonardi, the deputy comptroller.

“In the last three years there have been so many new issues that are created with, for example, the Wayfair (case) and remote selling type of issues that you didn’t see those type of issues in tax administration or state tax laws,” she said. “For so long, for people (that) practice in the area, the law was well established so there wasn’t that confusion.”

Last year in a case involving online retailer Wayfair, the Supreme Court ruled that statescould collect taxes from online purchases.

The new course will be open to students in the university’s graduate tax program, UB Law students, graduate accounting students and upper-division undergraduate honors accounting students. It will also be available as a noncredit course for people outside of the university, particularly professionals already in the workforce.

The course will be co-taught by representatives from the comptroller’s office and from the professional community.

The program developed as the comptroller’s office looked for ways to recruit.

“We have had difficulty as an agency recruiting … because unfortunately state salaries are not as competitive,” Bonardi said. “We shared the ideas that we developed within the agency and (UB) President (Kurt) Schmoke and his team thought that it would be mutually beneficial to develop this partnership.”

The partnership includes the opportunity for students within the tax program and law school to get internships with the comptroller. Students who get a “B” or higher in the course could also get preferred treatment in recruiting.

At one point the comptroller’s office might have been filled with employees who had been there for 15-20 years and had a broad base of experience with Maryland tax law. Now that range of experience is typically 5-7 years.

The office is hoping to recruit talented lawyers and professionals who might want to burnish their credentials in the public agency before moving to a higher-paying private firm after a couple of years. But to do that, they need to have a foundation of how Maryland law works.

“You are involved in the whole drafting of legislation and regulations, things that you most likely would not get to do at the large firms,” Bonardi said. “For that reason, our employees become more attractive to those private firms after they have been with us for a few years.”

The comptroller’s office also hopes to improve the immediate interaction with taxpayers who have questions about Maryland law, particularly as trends like e-commerce make state tax law more complex.

“Making tax administration more open and transparent for taxpayers,” Bonardi said. “This is something that the professional community along with the comptroller’s office is making a priority in Maryland.”

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